On the heels of his team’s 90-46 manhandling of Holy Cross Tuesday night, Jim Boeheim often repeated two words to describe many players on his roster: “good player.”
Andrew White III, Tyler Lydon, John Gillon, Frank Howard, and more. All were deemed “good players” by the head coach.
Yet, the entire press conference was not one lauding his team after its thorough dismantling of an overmatched foe. One stretch that stuck out was this one, coming late in the session, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Mistakes don’t show in games like this, but they’re there.”
Of course, Boeheim is right. Syracuse could play the Crusaders 100 times and likely win all of them.
In sharp contrast to several recent SU squads, the offense is clearly the strength of this team, as evidenced with how they overwhelmed Holy Cross. Not since the 2009-2010 team has an Orange squad gotten so much scoring from so many different sources. That group averaged over 80 points a game and shot over 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from three for the season. Seven players on that team averaged at least eight points a game, paced by Wes Johnson’s 16.5 per contest.
This year’s team has seven players who could score in double figures on any given night. They may not end up with such balanced results, but opposing coaches cannot simply take away one player, and, with the versatility of his roster, Boeheim can adjust his lineups to play to the hot hand.
While complimenting his roster Tuesday, Boeheim was still cautious in his postgame remarks, noting his team had a long way to go, particularly on defense. He harped on the fact that blending so many new players into an unfamiliar system will take time and that the defense is not up to snuff. It ceded open looks to Holy Cross, both from three and on a back-door cut that resulted in DaJuan Coleman getting yanked from the game in the first half.
And why the dissatisfaction instead of taking a patient tone?
He certainly thinks this team can play a lot better and accomplish a lot as it grows. Being angry, both during and after a blowout win, is an attempt to still urgency in this team. They need to improve a lot and do it immediately.
Right now, even in its developing stages, this Orange team is a versatile group that can score and probably rebound with anyone. It has lots of three-point shooters, especially with Frank Howard apparently developing into a solid shooter from long range. It has two point guards who have combined for 46 points, 27 assists, and five turnovers in two games. Its scholarship players have hit 19-of-41 three-pointers (46.3 percent).
The defensive stats look great on paper, but the competition the Orange will face will be a lot better by the end of the season. Getting the defense up to speed will be crucial because Boeheim clearly recognizes the talent in this squad and knows what it can accomplish.
His challenge is to get it there.